Mike vrs the Volcano


“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress.”

These were the words of Captain Eric Moody as his 747 flew into a cloud of of volcanic dust over Indonesia in 1982. Now I’m not sure which carefully chosen phrase I would have blurted out at the top of my voice had I been on that flight, probably something along the lines of “oh bugger”. Still we need not speculate for too long, as I’m booked on a flight on Sunday to Amsterdam. Well, that’s the plan anyway. As the UK is, apparently, under it’s very own cloud of volcanic dust, it’s not clear if any flights will be taking off by then anyway. I keep looking skywards and all I can see is blue sky and sunshine, but the met office says different and the plume of ash spewing out out the Icelandic volcano has closed the whole of Britain’s airspace.

Now as you will have read here previously, I’m no great fan of flying anyway, merely getting on planes as a means to an end, but ever since I decided to show The Incumbent the delights of the home of the clog, coffee bar and tulip, this trip has been jinxed from the beginning. No sooner had the buttons on BA website been clicked to confirm our flight, their cabin crew announced a series of strikes. The first two caused chaos at the airport, and the third promised to do the same. We spent hours trying to work out alternative routes and modes of transport and decided if the threatened third round of industrial action came (due this weekend) then we’d pop onto the car ferry and drive to Amsterdam.

Only yesterday it became pretty clear that no such action was going to take place and ‘safe’ in the knowledge we would indeed be flying, booked our spot in the car park at Heathrow. When I switched on the news this morning the news of the volcanic ash cloud took a a little time to sink in, it didn’t seem real, but 12 hours later it seems that there’s a very good chance that we will, after all, be completely and absolutely buggered, grounded by this ash. They’re telling me that this invisible cloud is sitting there above us at 30,000 ft, which is where aircraft normally do their stuff (I didn’t know that, as when I’m in the air I’ve usually got my eyes closed and my fingers in my ears, having injected the required amount of scotch into my bloodstream).

Sadly, there’s nothing to be done. I’m no scientist (no, honestly, I’m not) but I don’t think you can just sail up to Iceland and turn the volcano off. Nor I suspect could you send a fleet of helicopters up to blow the cloud away. Can you imagine the frustration to someone like me when there’s really no-one to blame ? My hatred of flying is only matched for my contempt for those that run airlines. Willie Walsh seems to have ably filled the the shoes of the crook who used to run BA, Lord King, and who but his own mother would give that shyster Michael O’Leary over at Ryanair anything but a swift kick to the goolies? Then there’s Branson. I’m running out of airlines I actually feel anything but hatred for. First they steal my money in complicated, if not fraudulent online booking forms (oh, you wish to wear underpants while flying? That’s another £17.50. Sick bags are £4.10 and a stale cheese sandwich is a tenner. Have a nice flight, sir) and THEN they scare the life out of me while I’m up there. I’m sure some of their pilots are former employees at EuroDisney.

But no, I can’t blame them. This is totally the fault of that cow Mother Nature. And probably George Osborne (and why not ? I need to vent). Sadly there’s not much I can do about either of them, I will just have to wait until the volcano blows itself out, or the wind changes direction and blows the dust cloud, and Osborn is forced, on his knees, to clean out the ash from still-moving jumbo jet engines, and what’s left of him given a paupers grave in Welling Cemetery (be sure to order the flowers early).

Osborne’s boss, Cameron, due on TV tonight appearing in the first ever live TV debate of the major party leaders. T o prepare for it, I have cleared the house of all heavy, sharp and throwable objects. I have upped my insurance on my tv and The Incumbent has emptied the liquor cabinet (well, the cupboard under the sink where I keep the booze.) I fear for my and her safety and for that of the contents of Railway Cuttings. Watching these three numpties parrot-out prepared answers to prepared and pre-supplied questions may just prompt an eruption of my own.

“Well don’t watch it, then” I hear you say. But I shall watch it because it is, as I say, the first time it’s ever happened on British TV, and also there’s something in me that believes it’s my duty to watch it. It’s clear that the party leaders only agreed to do it as part of their shameless scam to make us believe that politicians, in the wake of the expenses scandal, are now accessible, open and honest. And do you know, they actually think we believe all this cobblers? Well, why wouldn’t they ? We stood for an illegal war, our elected members stealing our money and their mates in the banking industry are still wandering around at liberty, because we’re told that Parliament will crack down on corruption in the city . We’d believe anything, wouldn’t we ? Even those of us who think we’ve rumbled them, will stroll up and put our ‘X’ next to their name come May 6th. We deserve all we get.

Some of us even believe there’s a big, black Icelandic cloud of dust stopping me going on holiday.
As long as I don’t have to get on a plane, I’ll believe anything.

.

Brothers in Arms


A couple of years ago I spent several great nights in a fantastic bar. And not just any old fantastic bar, but Robert’s Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, probably one of the great bars anywhere. On the face of it, there’s nothing remarkable about it: It’s a small, glass-fronted boozer, with the bar running down the length of one side, shelves full of cowboy boots running down the other and the beers pretty dire (we are in the State’s after all). But there’s enough whisky (sipping or otherwise), stetsons, dancing, good ol’ boys and sensational live bands to keep anyone happy for oh, about 12 hours a night, I reckon.

I’d been recommended this bar by my old mate and former colleague Jim Frederick (that’s him above, left , trying to keep the author upright, in front of the stage in Robert’s). Jim knew that me and my pal Shaun would be in Nashville and arranged to meet us there.

He had left the UK to return home to the States to write a book of the true story of some US soldiers who go into a spot of bother in Iraq. In fact they got into a lot of bother. A lot of his research took Jim to Kentucky and Tennessee and the Army posts and barracks thereabouts.

The three of us settled in for a long night of chat and booze, country music playing and boots stamping all around us. As the three of us drank and jawed our way though the evening, Jim had Shaun and I spellbound by his story, a sad, occasionally horrific, always gripping tale of boys plucked from the suburbs, given a gun, shouted at and sent abroad to fight. What happened to them created headlines all around the world and is an astounding yarn of the effects and the stresses of battle on our fighting forces. I demanded a copy of the book when it came out.

A night or two later (or it may have been that same night, my memory isn’t what it was) into this maelstrom of Johnny Cash tribute bands, blue-grass guitars, hoopings-and-a-hollerings, and yee-haws, walked a young lad and his family. The relatives had come into town for a drink and to toast this young man and wish him good luck. He was off overseas to fight in one of the wars in which America was involved.
He was in his number 1’s, USMC mess uniform, immaculately turned out, tightly cropped blonde hair and looked about 17 years old.

And he looked absolutely terrified.

Then a very strange thing happened to me: I stood up as he walked by and I shook his hand, wishing him good luck. Dunno why I did that. Have never considered myself a war-monger, and am no great patriot (even in my own country, let alone theirs) but yet I felt this was the correct thing to do. I guess it was because I could see the fear in this lads eyes, and got angry at the madness and folly of sending our youth to the slaughter, leaving the politicians thousands of miles behind at home to spin their corrupt webs.

I’ve never been that close to a Marine before or since (during our stay, everywhere was swarming with young soldiers on their way to, or returning from some conflict-or-other). It’s not something you see very often back home, thank god. But without getting too daft about it, I will remember that boy’s face for a very, very long time.

Anyway, the book’s out now, and I’m about to order it. So should you.

And you can buy it on Amazon here

Making a Living


Very, very occasionally I moan about my lot in life: Work is shit, they don’t understand/rate/like me (delete where applicable), my pc is on the Fritz, the boss is an arsehole etc etc. You may go through similar periods of woe-is-me yourself. Then every so often something happens which puts it all into perspective. On Sunday morning I got the call that an old mate of mine, Phil Coburn had suffered horrific injuries while doing his job in Afghanistan.

He was caught up in in a blast which killed his friend and colleague, reporter Rupert Hamer while they were embedded with the US Army in Helmand province. He is described as being in a ‘serious but stable’ condition in a Birmingham hospital. He escaped with his life but at a great cost.
Phil and I worked and drank together at The Telegraph many moons ago, and were the opening bowlers of the stick-yer-job-up-yer-arse XI most evenings in the pub after work. He was then a junior photographer, I was a junior picture editor. We moaned and we drank and we moaned some more and drank some more. He in his dark, Northern Irish brogue, and me in my North Kent nasally lilt.

I suspect we got on cos we were as miserable as each other, but could see the ridiculous in most anything. We often were at each other’s throats, then buying rounds for each other in the next breath. Work was the common enemy, or rather the people we worked with. After a night of this we went home to bed and started afresh the next morning.

After serving our apprenticeships on the paper we went our different ways, I went off to warm offices to get moaned at, Phil off to trenches to get shot at, in the name of journalism. We occasionally bumped into each other on jobs, or more often-than-not funerals and leaving dos. He was the star of my leaving do from The Telegraph: a beer-soaked 24 hour boat-trip piss-up to France where he entertained us with his moans and his hilarious gallows humour about life and work. He is a very funny bloke, that is when he’s not calling you a useless cnt.

So the next time you stand next to me in a pub and hear me moan about my current employer, or my horrid journey to work or the lack of lemons in the boozer, please feel free to tell me to fuck off: I have little to moan about. And it’ll be as if Phil were standing next to me.

Good luck, Phil, and hoping to see you in the pub sharpish. It’s your round, anyway.

Nine punters try to restrain Coburn (far right) during a Telegraph tea and scones evening

Another moaning old bastard from that Telegraph drinking team, now in The Gulf, puts it this way:

David Sapsted
Foreign Correspondent

The war in Afghanistan seems a million miles from Abu Dhabi – and a few million more from we here in London.
Yet, early on Sunday morning, the bloody conflict pierced the very heart of my home.
Michael Smith, an old friend and the defence editor of the Sunday Times, rang my mobile. “Phil Coburn has lost part of his leg in an explosion in Afghanistan,” he said. “Rupert Hamer (defence correspondent on the Sunday Mirror) has been killed.”
I did not know Hamer, a 39-year-old father of three. But photographer Coburn and myself have been close for the best part of 20 years. To be frank, our off-duty antics have prompted bartenders’ eyebrows to be raised in drinking establishments across the world.
When we were both working in New York, our impromptu line-dancing performances at our favourite and oft-frequented Manhattan bar became the stuff of legend. Or so we liked to tell ourselves.
We have come through the odd bombing in Northern Ireland together, been scared witless by an exploding volcano in Montserrat and been moved to tears by the teenagers of Columbine High as they recounted the horror of the massacre there.
I was the first to know he had fallen in love with Alison Roberts – a fellow journalist and now the mother of Joe, their three-year-old son – and, as usual, he was the last to leave my silver wedding celebrations a couple of years ago.
And today he is lying in the acute ward of Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, where the UK’s military trauma cases are treated, one leg shattered and the other missing below the knee.
Phil, a 43-year-old Ulsterman, and Rupert Hamer had been embedded with the US Marine Corps since the New Year. On Saturday, the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by a roadside bomb near Nawa in Helmand Province.
Rupert and a US marine died instantly. Phil and five other marines sustained serious injuries.
Both journalists were experienced Afghanistan hands, each having made several trips there previously. Invariably, when Phil returned from his other trips he would moan that his newspaper had “thrown my pictures away”, only using one of them on a piece on page 28 or some-such.
We would smile indulgently. It is a prerequisite of journalism that, whatever a newspaper editor does with your story or picture, it becomes a source of bitter complaint.
And Phil could have had earned himself a master’s degree in complaining. I recall him moaning to me once – during an assignment in the Caribbean, as we were stretched out on loungers beside a sun-drenched pool, large rum and dry gingers at out side – that he was “really fed up because I haven’t had a bloody holiday all year”.
When I pointed out the irony of his remark, he grunted, then giggled and then ordered a couple more drinks in a very loud voice.
But behind the sometimes grumpy mask lies what Londoners like to call a “genuine geezer” with a mischievous sense of fun, a devotion towards his family and a quite inexplicable loyalty to Liverpool FC.
Why anyone would want to blow him up is beyond me. Of course, it has always been beyond me, in a disinterested, reasoned sort of way, why anyone would want to kill or maim anyone, in Afghanistan or anywhere else.
Now, though, that violence has become personal. And it hurts.
At least, Phil Coburn escaped with his life, as so many in Afghanistan have not. And, when he is patched up, I have no doubt at all that he will be berating his picture desk, demanding to be sent back there because, after all, it is what he does.
And when he gets back from there next time, I am equally sure that he will moan incessantly about how “the idiots” have, yet again, thrown away his pictures on page 28.

.
And this from The Mirror.co.uk today

Photographer Phil Coburn, who suffered serious leg injuries in the bomb blast that killed reporter Rupert Hamer, is a war-zone veteran.

Highly regarded throughout the newspaper industry, his bravery and commitment to the job saw him travel to Afghanistan at least five times.

Phil, 43, was in Iraq to cover the allied invasion in 2003 and had returned more than a dozen times since – always with his trusted companion Rupert.

The pair set off for Afghanistan on New Year’s Eve for what was to be a month-long assignment. Phil has a reputation for capturing moving images from the front line.

Mike Sharp, Sunday Mirror picture editor, described him as a “dedicated and passionate photographer” who could always be relied upon to produce great pictures under the harshest conditions.

He said: “Phil is simply an exceptional photojournalist. His personable and charming manner sets everyone around him at ease.

“Journalists, his subjects, and other photographers all remark on his commitment and his ability to relax afterwards – a unique skill which is invaluable in conflict areas.

“His dry, often deadpan humour has helped him escape some tricky situations.”

Phil lives in north London with his partner Alison Roberts and their young son Joe. He is due to be flown home today for treatment at Birmingham’s Selly Oak hospital.

Although critically wounded, he is expected to pull through.

Phil has worked for the Sunday Mirror for eight years.

He trained as a photographer in his native Belfast.

He spent several years living in New York as a freelance for American picture agencies before returning to the UK where he also spent some time working for the Daily Telegraph. Colleagues and friends last night hailed him as a consummate professional with a natural talent for the job.

His impressive portfolio includes images of British troops burning a massive heroin haul found in Taliban compounds.

He captured soldiers on gruelling, lengthy patrols in the Afghan desert and others as they patrolled downtown Basra in Iraq.

Daily Mirror photographer Roger Allen said: “Phil is a larger than life Irishman with a great sense of humour – a very funny bloke.

“He’s got a great eye for a picture and he works hard and plays hard.”

It Is Written


Predictions.

When crap journalists can think of nothing else to write about, and editors have nothing sexy with which to fill their pages, we are left with long and exhausting lists of predictions for the coming year. Here at The Sharp Single things are no different. So read this and you need not read another til, ooh, next week I should imagine.

2010 and all that.

In January David Tennant becomes Dir Gen of the BBC, narrowly edging out the twin-bid from Mathew Horne and James Corden. It’s believed that the board said they didn’t want too much hilarity during important meetings, and yet they still plump for Tennant. Peter Andre marries himself. Katie Price explodes. Her life has gone tits-up.

The recession ends in February. Then it starts again a week later for those of us under £150,000-a-year when the government raises income tax to pay for a Champagne and Crayfish bar at the 2012 Olympic Equestrian stadium.
Following another attempted rectum-launched terrorist attack on an airliner, all passengers are now asked to remove their underpants through customs. John Prescott and Amy Winehouse are exempt. In the third week of February, due to an administrative error there is no sale on at DFS. Early march sees Hazel Blears join the Tory Party, and Peter Mandelson join the Brownies. Boris will say nothing sensible or vaguely relevant all year.
I lose 20 lbs by the end of March, in preparation to put on 25 by late June. In an astonishing turn of events, Jude Law continues to receive offers of work. In April, a virulent strain of Gnu Flu sweeps through Fleet Street and Sky News studios. Some people are almost likely to very probably have a tickly throat. The epidemic is expected to last until a proper news story breaks.

A Briton wins the first seven races in the F1 Championship. Meanwhile, in sport, Chelsea win the Premiere League by one point from Arsenal when, in the Blues last game three late deflected off-side penalties are allowed by the ref, a Mr S.Wonder, apparently. (By the end of the year, each match will be officiated by 7 refs, 2 linesmen, a sheepdog and The Met Police.) Alex Ferguson is finally pickled and displayed in the Man Utd museum for all eternity. United appoint Victoria Beckham as their new coach.

Gordon Brown loses the election and takes his seat in the upper chamber as Lord Thankgoditsallover. Fox hunting is re-legalised by the new Tory Government, as is hanging, public masturbation and child chimney-sweeps. Charlton Athletic make the play-offs only to lose to Millwall, 3 fan deaths to 1 (Duckworth/Lewis method).
In late May, the newly-appointed Minister for War, Mr Liam Fox, announces the Government’s new big push in Afghanistan. Plans are made to enlist every first-born child from labour-voting households (that’ll teach ’em). June 16th, fifty-three women in Florida, California and St Andrews simultaneously give birth to babies of mixed-race and a smashing set of choppers. The women, all blonde, rather soiled-looking, hotel cloakroom attendants immediately sign contracts with The Mail on Sunday. Gillette sales plummet. Or soar. July 21st, a string bag full of lemons is seen being delivered to The Crown public house, Blackheath. But no ice.
By the beginning of August, after a summer of riots and general discontent, Police officers are allowed to carry machetes while on crowd-control duties. All fingerprints and DNA of police officers are removed from the system, to be replaced by those of mortgage-defaulters and lollipop ladies.
Brazil win the World Cup. By now, England have already been roasted by the West Germans, Capello is poached by Portugal and grilled by the press. Then he goes and gets smashed.
Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff is seen urinating up against the Grace Gates at Lords after a particularly convivial lunch during the One Day International vrs Australia. The press dub it ‘Gategate’.
In late September after a ‘leaked’ press release it is widely reported that this year’s must-have toy for Christmas will be Mattel’s Stoat Family Fortunes (David Tennant Edition). A week later all stocks are sold out. Individual members of the Stoat family change hands on eBay for up to £300, except the very popular ‘Piper Stoat’ which you can’t get for love nor money.

In October I turn 40 years old for the seventh time running. Later that month armed police from the crack ‘Arrest Innocent People Squad’ raid a flat believed to be the HQ of a sleeper cell of Al Qaeda, responsible for the alleged underpants plot earlier in the year. Yet again, their information is found to be shoddy: Having forced their way into the premises, all they find is a derelict, uninhabited shit-hole, of no use or interest to man nor beast. And that’s not this years’ only connection with Wales: After a particularly wet autumn at Celtic Manor Golf Club, play is suspended during the foursomes on the opening day of The Ryder Cup when US player Stewart Cink’s caddy is tragically drowned while replacing a divot. Organisers pledge never to attempt to hold the event in Wales again, at any time of the year.
November 2nd and the Google Street View van finally visits my street, when it catches me stealing my next door neighbour’s wheelie bin, to replace mine which was stolen the week before
Thursday Nov 25th, Brisbane: Australia finish the first day of the first Ashes test on 431-1 (Ponting 230no, Katich 125no. Swann 1-250). Ian Botham arrested pending inquiries into an alleged incident in the bar afterwards which leaves 6 members of the Aussie press corps needing treatment. Four (empty) cases of Shiraz and a cricket stump are bagged and sent to forenics.

December: Keith Harris and Orville win Strictly Come Dancing, beating Clare Balding in the final, watched by 48 million catatonic viewers. On a visit by my children, mid-month, I resume the mantle of ‘Best Dad in the World’ – the first time I’ve held the title in 12 months. Their Christmas lists are then handed to me.
On Dec 23rd, a new supply of Piper Stoats arrive on the docks in Liverpool. Massive queues form and14 people are crushed in the ensuing riot when it’s announced sales are limited to one buyer each. Dec 29th: Mattel recall all sets of Stoat Family Fortunes due to a massive, dangerous design fault. Hundreds have been maimed by Piper’s sharp protruding teeth. Richard Branson makes an aggressive takeover bid for the company. Awaiting details of the photocall.

Happy 2011 to both of you

.

Who’s Been Naughty, and Who’s Been Nice?


So, in the immortal words of my old Night News Editor, as we progress “out of one shitty year, into another shitty year”, what have we learned ?

Well, we know that a 3-iron is as good at getting you at out of the rough as it is at getting your old man out of his Mercedes. Being 106 years old doesn’t preclude you from competing in international sport- as Tom Watson, Ryan Giggs and Kevin Poole have taught us (look him up!). Google Street View hasn’t become the burglars favourite tool, and they STILL haven’t been down my road.

All MP’s are wankers. Most are theives and crooks. I will never make a 50 in a competitive game of cricket. Or an uncompetitive one for that matter. Newcastle Utd and Man City are still big clubs. Apparently. I don’t want to go to work any more. There is far too much conversation in men’s toilets. It’s nearly time for me to win the Lottery (I’ll see you alright, don’t worry). Fat unattractive women can sing rather well. Rage Against the Machine can’t.

Michael Jackson didn’t die a natural death. Remember to hold that front page. We still haven’t a clue where Bin Laden is, but they’ve found the rest of his family. In general, I don’t like people. Policemen don’t like being photographed when they’re hitting people, but they do like kettles.Obama has been a bit of a disappointment, to be honest, but my poster I bought of him on ebay is not coming down. Life is better with Malcolm Tucker and without Hazel Blears

. Jade Goody will soon be beatified. Clare Balding should be. I’m not as fit as I should be, but about as fit as I thought I was. Ricky Ponting can’t win the Ashes in England., but he’ll manage it in Australia. F1 is still an interesting sport all the way up to the start of the race. Renault drivers are naughty boys. Blackheath still doesn’t have a decent boozer, but I’d like to think I contributed to the recent glut of lemons. Gordon Brown is still the PM of Great Britain (I can always Tipex that out if something happens before I go to press).

I’ve had a cold for 8 weeks in the last 52, and no matter how many channels you have to watch, there’s never anything decent on between car insurance adverts. IPL will ruin cricket as we know it. Football is already a shambles. It’s not the Chinese or the Indians, the carbon footprints or the motor cars: It’s the bankers who have fucked up the world. We want our money back.

It doesn’t matter how loathesome the BNP are, how ridiculous Nick Griffen was made to look on TV, there will STILL be stupid and nasty people who will vote for him at the polls next year. Andy Murray is a miserable bastard, but one day he’s gonna win something big. Apparently. When entering a Nepalese restaurant, plump for the mismas.

And the war won’t be over by Christmas. Or even next Christmas. Turns out they lied to us. But we knew that already, didn’t we?

May all your Christmas’s be white, and all your doughnuts turn out like fannies.

.

 

Now Stop That! You’re Not Even a Proper Woman


This story writes itself. Either she is a bloke in which case she should be banned and GB picks up the silver, or she’s a bird and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for thinking otherwise of the poor girl. Just because she doesn’t look like Denise Lewis (phwoaarrrrr, eh!?!?! A nudge is as good as a wink and so on, and so forth) and has a voice like Nelson Mandela on valium she has come under huge media suspicion and speculation. Either way the Athletic authorities need shooting: the timing of their announcement of the inquiry (hours before her final) was a disgrace.

Semenya indicates how many testicles she has

Semenya indicates how many testicles she has

If all ugly women are liable to gender testing and a ban from their chosen profession, what a state we’d all be in? Does anybody actually remember Rachel Heyhoe-Flint?, Betty Stove, and dear old Fatima Whitbread? Girls Aloud would be one short for starters and the former PM would have led a batchelor’s life (oh how he wishes).

Here’s a game you might like to play. Turn on the BBC TV news. Close your eyes when they go over to Afghanistan and try to picture the face that goes with the deep gravelly voice of the BBC Correspondent.

Your mind will think along these sort of lines: 03_07_1996 - 12.25.47 -  - ttf03510-2

But in reality it belongs to the lovely Caroline Wyatt : _38996497_iraq_wyatt150

Now obviously it makes no difference to us whether she’s a he or not, apart from the confusion she causes me nightly when I see her face for the first time after her VT is played. No-one is suggesting that she should be tested or banned from the Beeb because she looks like Claire Balding‘s big sister and sounds like Lee Marvins Auntie? I merely point it out that sometimes a Doris does look like and sound like a Geezer! (I had a whole paragraph here about women in my past, but on legal advice, I have removed it)

It’s a shame for Semenya that it’s come to this. Personally I’d have run a little slower and worn skipy drawers but, hey, is it her fault that she’s bloody quick but a tad butch?

It is a bloke, though, innit?

 

norfsarfADVERT

Dealing with Tragedy


Can you imagine what the funeral will be like? The world’s weirdest and worst-dressed family queuing up to see who’s the most upset. Sales of dark glasses will rocket in Beverly Hills. The pallbearers, jacket sleeves rolled-up, moonwalk backwards down the aisle, MJ’s silver glove (god alone knows where that’s been) atop of the casket. The vicar screeches woo-hoo at the top of his voice, spins, grabs his crotch and leads the congregation in a rousing chorus of We Are the World (Where Are Your Children?).
As the hearse drives slowly along Paedophile Boulevard, the weeping masses toss monkey nuts onto the bonnet, in respect to Bubbles, the one small mammal who didn’t have to be paid not to reveal what his mate had done to him during those long winter evenings by the fire. Liz Taylor, looking like an extra from Thriller says a few words of thanks, and Diana Ross collapses. No-one is sure if it’s the emotion that gets to her, or merely a sudden puff of wind that catches her off-balance. Liza Minnelli helps the 40 pound diva to her feet then announces a comeback tour and that she’s to stand-in for Michael at the O2. That’ll be a real treat for all concerned. Dame Reginald Dwight accompanies her on keyboard in a rather inappropriate rendition of Johnny Cash’s Jackson. Paul McCartney mutters a few words, something about a woman called Linda and and bloke called John, then flashes several Victory signs to the cameras. The service is concluded by Lisa Marie Presley’s un-plugged version of her dad’s Old Shep. Not a dry leg in the house.

President Obama, who thankfully is still the same colour as when he was born, announces a national day of yawning, three Jacko impersonators are arrested for trying to string up a series of Hollywood Doctors from lamposts by their goolies, Ben reaches No1 in every pop chart in the world, and schools cancel all exams to spare grief-sticken children the terrible ordeal of getting on with their lives. June 25th is named MJ Day, when masks will be worn and babies hung over balconies in celebration of the great man’s life. On that day buggery will be made legal in 36 states. Compulsory in California.

Elsewhere the bodies of young men and women are returned from Afghanistan and Iraq to be buried in simple services by their loved ones. Innocent civilians caught in the cross-fire of war, or by suicide bombers are buried in paupers’ graves. Millions are laid-off as recession bites, nuclear weapons are built by madmen and pointed at their neighbours, floods and earthquakes hit the poorest nations in the world, tens of thousands die. People have their operations delayed or canceled because they’re not on the right medical insurance scheme, and the National Health Service hasn’t the money nor capacity to carry out procedures for cancers, heart defects or the like.

Just as long as we keep it all in perspective.

baqubah

كيف-كان-ذلك؟ *


What a week we’ve had? The shenannegans of F1 continue on the track and in the courts, climaxing with Ron Dennis jumping overboard to save the McLaren team from further punishment over Liargate. The Diffusergate inquiry found in favour of Eva Brawn’s mob and a bloke called Jenson (a fine old English name) still leads the championship. Any day soon the back pages will be full of something called Racegate or even Interestinggate when a Grand Prix is actually more enjoyable AFTER the race starts. What a farce it all is? I’ve actually seen grown men leave a pub to go home on a Sunday afternoon to watch the latest parade from the Nurburgring or Monza. LEAVE A PUB. Honest.

Hands up who's bored with F1?

Hands up who's bored with F1?

Meanwhile, in the world of sport, David Dunne was sent off for the third time this season as Man City bid a fond adieu to Europe. Dunne, desribed to me this morning as a “Sunday Morning Lummox”, has the turning speed of your average oil tanker. It’d be no surprise to this reporter if at City’s next home match Somali Pirates were spotted sitting behind the goal, waiting to board him.
Terrific news from Seth Efrica that Andrew Flintoff ISNT playing in the IPL for the money. No, no. He’s playing to hone his 20-20 skills for the upcoming World Cup. Thank heavens for that, then. I guess there’s the added attraction of the probability of him getting injured so he can sit out the poorly-paid Ashes series. On the other hand if Freddie can get hold of the Aussies that are down there and take them out for “just the one” of an evening, maybe we still stand a chance against them, as they won’t have sobered up by July. Our reader with Setanta has promised to keep me up-to-date with the scores from the IPL, not that I give a monkeys.

 

Gonna be good n hot down there, under the lights. Having played a lot of cricket abroad (albeit to a rather lower standard) I can vouch for the complete shock of playing in a very hot climate and what it does to your system. My military-medium-pacers have been spanked over boundaries from Adelaide to Antigua and I’ve always been able to blame the heat or the altitude for my complete lack of competence with ball-in-hand. On one occasion in Nairobi (5889 ft above sea level) I wobbled and waddled to my mark at the end of my run up before delivering the fourth ball of my spell, when with sweat-filled eyes and a thumping head, I turned and started charging (sic) towards the square leg umpire before collapsing in a heap. “Take a blow, Bealers” came the exasperated voice of the skipper. At least they didn’t score a boundary of that delivery. In Mombassa I didn’t even manage to bowl a single ball as an excruciating pain shot up my left leg after I’d taken but three strides towards the wicket. The doctor said it was cramp, but I’m pretty sure it was cobra-bite.

A rabbit by his hutch

A rabbit by his hutch

Anyway, never ever again will I throw beer cans at the TV as I watch the English tourists falter and collapse against the Indians/Pakistanis/Sri Lankans as I fully understand how harsh foreign conditions can be on us Poms (playing in Colombo was like playing in a wok). I would, however have donated my left testicle to watch last night’s World Cup Qualifying match between Scotland and Afghanistan, where the Afghans romped home by 42 runs. Played in Benoni, Sef Efrica (presumably the Kabul Oval is undergoing a refurb?), the Scotch were chasing 280 to win but lost their last 8 wickets for 50 runs. Now I know a lot of you will be surprised that Scotland play cricket (it’s staggering popular in the gorbals), but how much fun do you reckon you’d have playing a match in-between US bombing raids in Helmand Province?? I reckon your opening bat may lose concentration every-so-often, deep backward square regularly gets kidnapped before tea, and there’s a land-mine just on a length outside off-stump. I suspect there’s a few short legs around, but that’s another story.

 

*Arabic for “How was that?”

Oh My God, They’ve Found Tom!


British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, wants EU countries to up their efforts in Afghanistan. There’s a feeling by the Brits (and the Yanks) that our continental partners could lend more men to the war effort. As Miliband puts it,”Some countries are doing significant amounts but other countries have got either significant caveats on the deployment of their troops or they’ve got their troops in parts of the country where there isn’t the same level of insurgency.”
In other words, European armies don’t want to get shot at. And fair enough: not being shot at is pretty high up on my to-do-list also.

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Ever since Carry on up the Khyber, Afghanistan has been a little sod to conquer. The British Empire failed to control the Mullahs, the Soviet Army got its arse kicked, and the Yanks are having a few probs with the Taliban too (who, it turns out, were supplied arms by Tom Hanks in the first place). So what are the chances that the 3rd Copenhagen Rifles or a battalion of the Luxembourg Light Horse will fare any better? It’s a scary place, the Hindu Kush, with a soldier’s life-expectancy only slightly higher than that of a diner at Heston Blumenthal’s Dead Duck.

No. Leave it to the professionals. The US did, after all, defeat Nazism single-handedly, having captured Enigma machine and deciphered Ultra, landed virtually alone on the Normandy beaches, forced Hitler to retreat from Moscow and all without a single bit of help from anyone else. Rock Hudson chewed on a huge stogey throughout the D-Day landings, Steve McQueen was the only man on either side not to have to wear a uniform, and only William Holden understood war’s cruelty and madness. In-between shagging nurses on beaches.
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The Brits were buffoons. If you were British and managed to grab a line you either sounded like Sam Kydd or Donald Sinden (right). While GI Joes were challenging strangers with the rather cool “Thunder” to get the friendly reply “Flash”, the silly Tommies used the rather more clipped “Leicester” and “Square” (pronounced “squar”). Brits were rescued from Stalags and Bulges by the the Marines or the Airborne, were always depicted holding a cuppa or downing a brown sludgy pint though buck-teeth, and sported some of the finest moustaches seen in modern warfare. And every Man Jack of them was a complete Berk. Edward Fox deserves particular credit for this one.

Alec Guinness built bridges for the Japanese, Dirk Bogarde sent Gene Hackman’s Polish Brigade to be slaughtered at Arnhem, Gordon Jackson said “thank you” when he meant “merci” and poor old Donald Pleasance couldn’t see a bloody thing. Only Richard Todd, who stormed the Pegasus Bridge ( “Up the Ox and Bucks, Up the Ox and Bucks”) gave any help at all to Ike and co. (In fairness, the actor actually WAS in the invading forces at D-Day). Richard Burton was Welsh and is therefore excluded from this conversation. But the rest? :Useless Limey wankers.

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No-one, for the whole war, ever stopped for a pee. .

So perhaps the British government’s initial reluctance to attend the 65th Anniversary of D-Day is completely understandable. Miliband is only about 12 so all the movies he would have seen on the subject would show him that the Brits were never there. (In Saving Private Ryan Ted Danson does mention Monty once, as the bloke who’s cocking up everything). I wouldn’t turn up either— if I didn’t even make the end credits.

So Mr Miliband, the next time Obama asks you or your EU pals to supply more troops for Operation Certain Death, tell him you want at least 2nd billing, more and better lines and a cut of the royalties. Dunno why they need us there in the first place. We’ll only bugger it up.